out·​line | \ ˈau̇t-ˌlīn How to pronounce outline (audio) \

Definition of outline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a line that marks the outer limits of an object or figure : boundary the jagged outline of the mountains
b : shape the sharpening outline of her face— Willa Cather
2a : a style of drawing in which contours are marked without shading drew a dog in outline
b : a sketch in outline prepared several outlines of the suggested mural
3a : a condensed treatment of a particular subject an outline of world history
b : a summary of a written work : synopsis Students were required to give an outline for each assigned paper.
4 : a preliminary account of a project : plan gave the class an outline of the points he intended to cover
5 : a fishing line set out overnight


outlined; outlining; outlines

Definition of outline (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to draw the outline of
2 : to indicate the principal features or different parts of outlined their responsibilities

Synonyms for outline

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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Choose the Right Synonym for outline


outline, contour, profile, silhouette mean the line that bounds and gives form to something. outline applies to a line marking the outer limits or edges of a body or mass. traced the outline of his hand contour stresses the quality of an outline or a bounding surface as being smooth, jagged, curving, or sharply angled. a car with flowing contours profile suggests a varied and sharply defined outline against a lighter background. a portrait of her face in profile silhouette suggests a shape especially of a head or figure with all detail blacked out in shadow leaving only the outline clearly defined. photograph in silhouette against a bright sky

Examples of outline in a Sentence

Noun The pictures were drawn in outline and then filled in with color. The leaves etched into the vase have a gold outline. Organize your essay by writing an outline in which you state your main idea followed by your supporting points. a brief outline of American history Her speech was written in outline on note cards. Verb The President outlined his agenda for the next term. The book outlines the major events of the country's history. All players must follow the rules outlined above. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In her outline of events in Meadows’ office, Hutchinson said Meadows and then-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone made Trump acutely aware of the immediate threat to Pence’s safety. cleveland, 28 June 2022 Its outline, frequently seen on tourist signs, improbably resembles a scuba diver. Diane Daniel, Washington Post, 24 June 2022 Talks had teetered on the brink of failure repeatedly last week, as lawmakers, in late-night meetings and calls, wrestled with how to translate their outline into a legislative text. New York Times, 21 June 2022 No other symbol has the power to instantly evoke the region or a plate of tacos by the mere shape of its outline. Douglas C. Towne, The Arizona Republic, 11 June 2022 The top of Kardashian's dress still has a black outline around the nude pieces, a perfect replication of Madonna's leather harness and an iconic tribute to Gaultier's earlier work. Hedy Phillips, PEOPLE.com, 7 July 2022 The document will also for the first time outline NATO’s view on China as a challenger, although NATO countries have yet to settle on the exact language that will be used, diplomats said. Annabelle Timsit, Washington Post, 27 June 2022 Two recent books indicate the degree to which many film historians depart from Monaco’s conventional outline (and Frodon’s unorthodox one). James Quandt, The New York Review of Books, 8 June 2022 The outline of the dog track, including the guardrails, is still in place, though the infield is overgrown with weeds and bushes. Richard Ruelas, The Arizona Republic, 1 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The findings further outline the role of preventive measures for older adults, where research in gut microbiome and cardiovascular health have been limited, Wang says. Alexa Mikhail, Fortune, 3 Aug. 2022 That leaves travelers at the mercy of individual airlines, which have wide latitude within the existing regulations to outline and implement their own compensation structures. Zach Wichter, USA TODAY, 3 Aug. 2022 Aligned Carbon Offsetting, which outline the importance of transitioning to high-quality removal solutions. Erik Millar, Forbes, 25 July 2022 Pottinger was focused on Asia during his time in the Trump administration, and helped outline a more aggressive stance toward China, one that was rooted in his own experiences as a reporter in the country. Chris Megerian And Jill Colvin, Chicago Tribune, 21 July 2022 The court papers said the film center refused to tell Mr. Ackerman why he was fired and has ignored requests for documents that outline the misconduct he was accused of. Matt Stevens, New York Times, 20 July 2022 The plan must show proper charging coverage along existing corridors and outline a strategy for future expansion of installations, according to the release. Spencer Donovan, ajc, 14 July 2022 Please see the terms of service that outline your rights and our obligations and rights that will be imposed. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, 6 July 2022 State lawmakers for months have been working on Senate Bill 918, which would outline where guns are banned in California, including school campuses, public transportation, bars and public parks. Alene Tchekmedyianstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 30 June 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'outline.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of outline


1662, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1790, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for outline

Time Traveler

The first known use of outline was in 1662

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Dictionary Entries Near outline

out like a light



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Statistics for outline

Last Updated

6 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Outline.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/outline. Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for outline


out·​line | \ ˈau̇t-ˌlīn How to pronounce outline (audio) \

Kids Definition of outline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a line that traces or forms the outer limits of an object or figure and shows its shape
2 : a drawing or picture or style of drawing in which only the outer edges of an object or figure are shown outlines of animals
3 : an often numbered or lettered list of the important parts of something (as an essay)
4 : a short treatment of a subject an outline of world history


outlined; outlining

Kids Definition of outline (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to draw or trace the outer edges of Outline the circle in gold.
2 : to list or describe the main features or parts of … Mother went on outlining her plans for the storeroom.— Robert Lawson, Rabbit Hill

More from Merriam-Webster on outline

Nglish: Translation of outline for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of outline for Arabic Speakers


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